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Thursday, November 1, 2007



Study: Closeted Workers Harm Selves, Employers

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: November 1, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET

(San Francisco, California) A survey of gay and lesbian employees across the U.S. has found that "fears about disclosing a gay identity at work had an overwhelmingly negative relationship with their career and workplace experiences and with their psychological well-being."

The study, 'Making the Invisible Visible: Fear and Disclosure of Sexual Orientation at Work' was based on a questionnaire of 500 LGB workers and the results appear in The Journal of Applied Psychology.

"These findings were both striking and disturbing; those who reported more fear of the negative consequences of full disclosure had less positive job and career attitudes, received fewer promotions, and reported more physical stress-related symptoms than those who reported less fear," wrote researchers, Belle Rose Ragins and Romila Singh of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and John M. Cornwell of Rice University.

For those working in what they perceived as a non-supportive environment, the costs of non-disclosure were significant, the study concluded.

Workers who feared more negative consequences to disclosure reported less job satisfaction, organizational commitment and lower satisfaction with opportunities for promotion and career commitment.

They also had lower self-esteem in the workplace and were more likely to change jobs than those who feared less negative consequences."

"Those who feared more negative consequences reported more [job] role ambiguity, more role conflict, and less workplace participation than those who feared less negative consequences,” the report said.

"LGB employees who feared more negative consequences also reported greater psychological strain than those who feared less negative consequences." Psychological strain was described as stress-related symptoms experienced on the job, work-related depression, and work-related irritation.

The study said that while deciding whether to come-out is an exceptionally difficult career challenge facing lesbian/gay employees it typically goes unnoticed by employers.

However, the threats to employment security are real. There are no laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 31 states, and such discrimination remains “widespread” in practice.

The researchers pointed to previous studies that indicated that between 25 and 66 percent of lesbian or gay workers had experienced discrimination. Of the participants in this study, 37 percent said they had faced discrimination because others suspected or assumed they were gay or lesbian. More than 10 percent said they had been physically harassed. More than 22 percent said they had been verbally harassed. Nearly 31 percent said they had resigned from a job, had been fired from a job or had left a job because of discrimination.

Robert-Jay Green, executive director of the Rockway Institute, a national center for LGBT research and public policy affiliated with Alliant International University said that the new study fits with other research showing that more accepting work environments are associated with LGBT employees being healthier and more productive.

"The research also provides some additional facts concerning the need for public policies protecting against job discrimination,” said Green.

"Employees who are not afraid of being fired or held back from promotion because of their same-sex orientations are psychologically freer to put their full creative energies into work. This, in turn, saves employers’ time and money. It a win-win for all concerned."

The study was released as the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to vote on legislation that would ban LGBT workplace discrimination.



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